6 Ways an Architect Can Think You into a Better Home


Why work with an architect when you can just hire any contractor, buy a plan off the internet or even … design it yourself?  A professional designer is trained to help you solve the problems you’ve been wrestling with as well as others you never even saw coming.  Here’s why Denise and Doug decided hiring an architect was the right thing for them:

Whole Tree office space

Whole Tree office space

Denise says:  There is an old joke, “Anyone who represents themselves in court has a fool for a lawyer.” By extension, guess what kind of people live in all those houses that weren’t designed by architects? I used to fit in that category. Because my husband and I have taken hammer and sawzall to every home we have owned – knocking out or building walls, redoing floors, adding stairways and even passive solar additions, we have prided ourselves on our intuitive sense of design.  So … the first thing we did after putting an offer in on our land was to start sketching our future house. We labored on that plan for several years — a conventional, cottagey-looking structure — refining it, but never actually changing it much. Then we decided to work with the very green architect whose work I fell in love with in an article in Natural Home, and it quickly became clear how constrained we were by our lack of experience.

The plans now taking shape are something completely different, and something I love much more. So many issues I never even thought about are being addressed before they can be life long problems. The finished home is going to fit us like a bright green glove because unneeded and expensive square feet have been whittled away. Even if architectural design does raise the house cost by a few percent – this isn’t like purchasing a toaster or computer which will be replaced all too soon. This is a building – the creation and heating and cooling of which are going to be the environmental gift that goes on giving. The houses we build (if built right) are our legacies to the future.

And here are six more reasons an Architect will help you think about your home in new and better ways:

1. Think Big, Big Picture, that is.
Architects are able to consider the whole building and to put together individual spaces, small and large, into a holistic unit while also considering how that building integrates into the landscape and environment. All architects are trained to problem solve spatially, in ways that most people don’t think about regularly. A designer is able to take desires like “a nice open layout” and specifics about bedroom sizes and closet space and turn them into a new thing which includes all the requested features and creates new spaces and solutions that you may never have considered.

The Bookend House at Drifless Farm

The Bookend House at Drifless Farm

2. Think it Through
Constructing a new home, or even remodeling one is a hugely complicated process and for most people it is a once in a life time experience. Professional designers have done it all before and are able to help you foresee problems before they arise and offer advice based on past projects. An architect can help you predict which choices will lead to complications or expense or delays in the building process, and also advise you about which of those complications may end up being worth it in the end.

3. Think Ahead
Hiring an architect will save you money. A well-planned project can be built more quickly and economically. Well-prepared drawings make the building process clearer and allow any contractors or subcontractors to more accurately price their proposals. Our design experience also allows us to advise you on the most effective material choices and on which reused materials will save you money and which will only add difficulty and expense. We can also advise you on material choices and design decisions that will reduce your maintenance costs and last well into the future.

4. Think Globally, Design Your Home
Many architects today are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable design. The right architect will prioritize design that supports passive solar heating, low emissions in materials and small carbon footprints in building. The building design process begins with the site and considering how sun wind and light will affect the spaces inside and how people will want to use them. Energy efficiency in a home serves many purposes. It is about saving energy and lightening the buildings footprint, it is also about saving on the costs of maintaining a home and it can also provide a spiritual value to know that you have chosen to work in harmony with nature as much as possible.

5. Think … Smaller
A good designer will add up all the things you’ve told them about your dream home and let you know where you can cut back. At Whole Trees, when we get a “program” or list of wants and needs from a client, we lay that out and compare it to their guess of a square footage, and we advise them to reduce. We are committed to the idea of living well in the right amount of space in our own life and want to encourage all of our clients to build what they really need. The best way to reduce the cost of a building both in dollars and in kilowatts is to reduce the square footage.

6. Think Outside the Box
Additionally, Whole Trees and other natural builders offer a little more than the conventional architect can. In addition to longstanding experience in sustainable design and a long experience in appropriate design for this climate, Whole Trees brings a unique building type. Choosing Whole Trees gives you access to a different type of building material. Whole tree structural frameworks are strong and beautiful and available locally. Rather than harvesting from old growth forest far away, you can build your home from trees that are carefully removed from healthy local forests. Your home can actually end up sequestering carbon rather than producing it.

Driftless Farm house kitchen and living space

Driftless Farm house kitchen and living space

Ulimately, working with an architect will help you create a beautiful space that combines the best of current design and technology with your unique dreams and needs.

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